Eve Paterson lives in Andover with her husband, Angus, and works in London for the Evangelical Alliance. Alongside getting stuck in with her local church, St Mary’s Andover, Eve’s favourite things are cups of tea, expanding her worldview, and reading/hoarding books. She reviews everything she reads on Instagram (@e.f.paterson) and is always happy to answer book-related questions.
Starting a virtual book club
Believe it or not, social distancing doesn’t have to be boring. In fact, you can still travel all over the world. The key is a good book!
While many of us are spending more time at home than usual, it’s a brilliant opportunity to catch up on all that reading we’ve been intending to do. Perhaps you’re already picturing the book that you bought a few years ago but never got around to? The one that got all the hype and your pastor recommended it but it’s been sat on your shelf since 2008?
We want to help you make the most of this time to pick up some great books, and also use it as a way to connect with others and expand our worldview. Books are a brilliant way of understanding life experiences beyond our own, and this is only enhanced further when we discuss our reading with others.
So, how do you go about starting a book club during this season?
- Check there aren’t any book clubs that already exist in your area. No one wants to reinvent the wheel, so a quick search on Facebook and Google will tell you if there’s a pre-existing local group that may already meet digitally.
- If not, then float the idea with friends, on social media, and in your church community to see who might be interested – you don’t even have to live near each other to read and chat together online. You could also start a group chat with people who are keen so that everyone can get to know each other and discuss a plan for the group.
- Decide what kind of books you want to read. This is a great time to dig deeper into some Christian literature and work through its implications in our lives, but it’s also a fantastic opportunity to explore other parts of the world through fiction. Your group might want to do one or the other or both, so have that discussion early on.
- Decide on a rhythm. A lot of book clubs meet just once a month to discuss a book, but perhaps you could meet more regularly and discuss a chapter or chunk of the book at a time – it’s also a good excuse to touch base with everyone regularly!
- Decide how you’re going to meet. It is absolutely crucial that we continue to follow government guidance around social distancing, so the best way of chatting about your reads is online. A few ways of doing this are Zoom, Skype, or video call options on WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram. Grab your book, make a drink, and dial in to chat!
- Support local bookshops. It goes without saying that this is a really challenging time for local businesses, especially bookshops. Many have had to close their shops but are now offering a delivery service to their local area. If you have a local bookshop, Christian or otherwise, it’s a great idea to contact them and see what they can offer before ordering from larger corporations online.
Hopefully these tips will help you get started with your own book club, but the key thing is to enjoy it. Absolutely take the chance to read more broadly and more in-depth than you might do normally, but don’t drag yourself through a book because you feel you have to.
Use it as a chance to read for fun, to grow and expand your worldview, and to keep connecting with others!
Book club discussion questions
It can sometimes be hard to get discussion going with a new group, so here are some questions to get you started…
- What was your impression of this book before you started reading?
- Were there preconceived ideas that you brought to the book? What assumptions did you hold about the characters or people like them?
- Had you read anything like this before? What was it?
- What did you like/dislike about the book? Why?
- Were there any twists or aspects of the plot that surprised you?
- Which character did you identify with most? Why?
- What did you learn through the experiences described in this book? How did it challenge your preconceived ideas?
- Do you think the author gave a fair portrayal of the characters and life experiences in the book? Was this from their first-hand experience or from research? Why is this important?
- If you could ask the author one question, what would it be?
- What do you think would happen to the characters after the final page?
- How would you rate this book out of 5?
There is a fantastic wealth of Christian literature out there, so you will need to decide as a group which areas of discipleship, mission or theology you would like to explore further. Most of the time, what you see is what you get, and the blurb will give you a clear indication of what you’ll be exploring in the book.
When it comes to fiction, however, this can be more of a mixed bag and the blurb doesn’t always represent the content of the book itself. As such, here are some brilliant books that span a broad cross-section of cultures, eras, and experiences, and we think give plenty to discuss as a group:
Before the Coffee Gets Cold Toshikazu Kawaguchi
Brick Lane Monica Ali
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine Gail Honeyman
Girl, Woman, Other Bernadine Evaristo
Homegoing Yaa Gyasi
Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 Cho Nam-Joo
Lost Children Archive Valeria Luiselli
Mornings in Jenin Susan Abulhawa
Nineteen Eighty-Four George Orwell
Pachinko Min Jin Lee
Saving Missy Beth Morrey
State of Wonder Ann Patchett
Stay with Me Ayobami Adebayo
The Book of Unknown Americans Cristina Henriquez
The Confessions of Frannie Langton Sara Collins
The Island of Sea Women Lisa See
The Muse Jessie Burton
The Poisonwood Bible Barbara Kingsolver
The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle Stuart Turton